Archive for the ‘Other Authors’ Category

CHARACTER AND THE MODERN MAGUS

Today’s post comes from good friend and awesome writer, Jason Franks. Jason describes the genesis of a key character in his latest novel (a dark fantasy tale that I highly recommend).

Take it away, Jason…

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My novel Faerie Apocalypse is about a series of mortals who travel to the faerie realms, each on their own distinctive quest. It was a tough book to write. I developed a new, more writerly style for the project, and I found that I had to treat the protagonists differently to the way that I normally would. Each protagonist offered their own difficulties, but none more so than the magus.

The magus is an evil magician with vast powers of destruction, who is also a working class Australian. He speaks with a raw Ocker accent; he delights in spouting vulgarities and clichés. He’s the Ugly Australian abroad—he’s gone native, but he hates the natives. He’s not the most powerful magician who ever lived, but he is a proud psychopath, and this makes him one of the most dangerous.

This expatriate Australian makes it his business to keep tourists out of the faerie realms. A hermit who lives in a magical tower, he only ventures out if there’s another unfortunate human around. A lot of Australians move abroad searching for success or influence or just to escape from the prison island—I myself did five years in the US—and that was my twist on the idea.

Initially the magus appears in another character’s chapter, as a villain, and I thought he worked well there, providing just the right counterpoint to the intricate prose and dialogue offered by the other characters. When it came time to give him his own chapter, though, things became difficult. Would readers be interested in seeing this human monster run amok and, eventually, run aground?

Unlike the other protagonists, I thought I would show the magus’ backstory, intercut with the fairy land narrative. The magus’ childhood, growing up in the care of an abusive widower. I had scenes showing the magus surviving Hurricane Tracy, which destroyed the city of Darwin in 1974. (Tracy was as remarkable for its compactness as for its destructive power. Almost as if it was… targeted.) I showed the magus dealing with puberty, and growing up to be a criminal. I showed the combination of curiosity and rage that leads him to discovering magic without a mentor or a guide.

These flashback sections were interspersed with the main thread in chronological order and match-cut into the scenes preceding or following them, so that the last flashback, near the end of the story, lead back to the opening scene in a kind of Escher loop. I worked damn hard on this arrangement, but the whole structure was too intricate. It was American Psycho in Fairy Land, only… Australian. It was just too complicated. The only fix was to remove the flashbacks… but it was still broken.

Without the backstory it became a simpler task. The magus’ chapter is linear and the character himself is quite straightforward: he makes no attempt to disguise his nature or his intent. He’s murdering psychopath, but he’s not a liar. Once I had cleared the way, it was easier to see what was really wrong with the chapter.

I dislike the old writing chestnut ‘characters need to grow and change’ almost as much as I dislike people who use the expression ‘old chestnut’. I think good writing doesn’t make characters change, it changes the way that we understand characters. Perhaps those characters come to recognize something new in themselves, or perhaps not, but to have them transform—a knave to a hero, a robot to a car—is to misunderstand what character really is. A knave is a knave, even if he’s sometimes a hero. A robot is a robot, even if it’s also a car.

That is what the chapter was lacking: revelation of character. We need to learn something about the magus. I didn’t want to redeem him, or even to make him sympathetic, but I thought it would be powerful to let him gain some self-awareness.

There were places where I allowed him to catch a glimpse, but the book really needed a moment… just one lucid moment… where he comes to understand that if he gets what he thinks he wants, he will destroy it, as he destroys everything he touches. The magus is defined by hate, and there is one thing he hates above all else: himself.

While writing this essay I went back through some older manuscripts, rereading the magus’ deleted backstory, and I found the following snippet. This is one of the dearest darlings I have ever murdered in writing a book. Fitting, I guess, that it was the magus who made me do it.

The magus spent most of his thirteenth summer confined within a bamboo cage, alone with the sun and the storms, without food or water, for as long as his body could endure.

“When you can handle pain,” said his father, “You can handle bloody well anything. When you know that you’ve already lived through the worst you can imagine, you’ll never fear any-bloody-thing again.

“Instead of fear you’ll learn to hate, and hate will make you strong.”

The magus came to learn that this was true. By his reckoning, trading fear for hatred was a profitable enterprise; for one’s capacity to fear is finite, but one’s capacity to hate is without limit.

Thanks for reading. I hope your own monsters are kinder to you than the magus has been to me.

Jason Franks

***

Faerie Apocalypse is available from multiple sellers in multiple formats. Read the blurb and see the bookstore links here. I gave the novel an honest Goodreads and Amazon review of five stars. 

 

Shannon Lawrence: Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

Blue Sludge Blues & Other Abominations
by Shannon Lawrence

Release Date: March 15, 2018
Horror short story collection
A collection of frights, from the psychological to the monstrous. These tales are a reminder of how much we have to fear: A creature lurking in the blue, sludgy depths of a rest area toilet; a friendly neighbor with a dark secret hidden in his basement; a woman with nothing more to lose hellbent on vengeance; a hike gone terribly wrong for three friends; a man cursed to clean up the bodies left behind by an inhuman force. These and other stories prowl the pages of this short story collection.

Four Ways Horror Can Be Beneficial

1. People enjoy a good fright. We feed on the adrenaline. Horror is a safe way to get adrenaline pumping while not actually being in danger. Guess what follows that adrenaline? Dopamine, known as the feel good chemical in our bodies.

2. Satisfaction. We love seeing the monster get obliterated, the psycho killer caught, the ghosts banished. Humans seek justice, and there is something intensely satisfying in seeing justice delivered in whatever form that might take. If we can’t have justice, we’ll happily take catharsis.

3. Horror often reflects the fears of current day issues. People are already thinking about these things, worrying about them. When a horror story comes out that addresses our base fears, we get justification for our fears and can often see at least that single survivor make it through, which gives us hope where we might not have had it before.

4. Distraction. Don’t want to think about the stresses of your daily life? Read some horror. Focusing on these false fears can be a perfect way to avoid thinking about other things stressing you out, and the release provided by tensing and relaxing as the story moves like a roller coaster can relieve some of that real life tension.

Bonus: Horror burns calories. While they haven’t done a study on reading horror, one was conducted on folks watching a horror film. They burned off up to 184 calories during the course of The Shining. Just think how many calories are burned when that two hour film is replaced by a book that takes longer to read!

Excerpt

From Faceless:
“A hand with cherry red nail polish reached over and touched Suzette’s arm, and her face blurred, the features disappearing into a flesh colored void. The blond hair framing where her face should be turned in Delilah’s direction.

Buy the Book

Also available from Apple and other countries through Amazon

About the Author

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes mostly fantasy and horror. Her stories can be found in magazines and anthologies, including Space and Time Magazine, Dark Moon Digest, and Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there’s always a place to hide a body or birth a monster.

Social Media Links

Emerian Rich: 5 Questions, 1 Statement

 

Pete: Who the heck are you and why are you on my blog?

Emerian: I am Emerian Rich, horror writer, artist, and Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net. I came to tell you and your readers about my new vampire book, Dusk’s Warriors.

Pete: Vampires have been done to death. What makes your book special?

Emerian: Dusk’s Warriors has the traditional kind of vampires who thirst for blood and then three other kinds. These other three vampires have different “elixirs” that grant them immortality. One is a dream vampire that feeds off the dream energy of mortals. I really enjoyed playing with the idea of an immortal elixir and how different emotions or mortal motivations could be fed upon.

Pete: They say writers are their characters. Is there any character that you identify especially?

Emerian: I guess they are all a little bit me, but two characters in particular reflect my personality at the time I first created this series. Kristine, the meek, mild, broken character was who I felt like I back then. And then there’s my hero Jespa, who I wanted to be. She’s tough, strong, and takes care of business. As I get older, I feel like I let my inner Jespa show more.

Pete: Do you have any Australian vampires?

Emerian: Funny you should ask. I have a fan who wrote me from Australia and wants me to write one. She has offered to be the voice on the audiobook. Currently, I have no Australian vampires. Mostly because the characters I have written from other cultures are based on or influenced by people I know and have spent a lot of time around. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing any Australians for a long length of time. But now we are friends that could change.

Pete: Slow it down. We aren’t friends yet, are we? What constitutes a friendship?

Emerian: Someone who doesn’t slam the door when I ask to guest blog?

Pete: You don’t have very high expectations, I guess we are friends then.

Emerian: I knew I’d win you over. 🙂

Pete: What is your response to this statement: You should be a writer who does it for the art, not the paycheck.

Emerian: True. You really do have to love it and not expect much. If you can make a living at it, that is awesome, but you can’t go into it thinking you will. After all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

https://www.amazon.com/Dusks-Warriors-Nights-Knights-Vampire/dp/1544628803

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shuarette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

 

Praise for Night’s Knights

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

 

Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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Author MJ Bell: 5 Questions, 1 Statement

 

At time of writing, I am many chapters into MJ’s Bell’s Before the Full Moon Rises and loving it. I have literally dozens of books on my To Read shelves, so when I bought this at Denver Comic Con recently I thought I was crazy to add yet another novel to the shelf. But I’m sure glad I did. Excellent YA fantasy that I’m enjoying as a middle-aged male reader. I recently pitched MJ some questions and a statement to respond to. And here’s her responses…

PETE: What is it that motivates you to write?

MJ: I don’t really have to be motivated to write. For me, writing is more like breathing and eating—I crave it every second I’m not doing it. And when something takes me away from it, you know, like life, family, household chores, the story whispers in my head until I can get back to it. I’m just one of those people who loves to write.

PETE: Your Secret Prince series is YA. What do young people look for and need from a novel?

MJ: Ha! If only I knew that, I would be as rich as J.K. Rowling!! But teens today have so many more pressures on them than what I had when I was that age. Peer pressure and social media outlets are brutal, and I think that’s why so many young people tend to gravitate to fantasy/scifi novels. They need a place they can escape to and get emerged in, away from the realities of their lives. And they want some part of the book to be something they can relate to their own life, whether it be the character’s personality traits, the character’s struggles, the relationships, or the situations.

PETE: What made you choose a French heritage or connection for Deston you main character?

MJ:  I fell in love with France the first time I visited, so there’s that. But also, the Forest of Brocéliande (significant to the story) is in France, so it made sense for Deston’s mother to be French. Why I chose the Forest of Brocéliande is because I’m a huge fan of the King Arthur legend, and it is said that Merlyn the Magician went to Brocéliande after he left Arthur. That’s where Merlyn met Nimue, and it’s also where Nimue trapped him in a cave of ice. He is supposedly still there today, waiting to be released. And since Merlyn has a BIG role in the Secret Prince chronicles, it again made sense.

PETE: What’s your advice for young people wanting to become a published author like you?

MJ: The same advice I give all new authors. Don’t judge your success by the success of others. Everyone has different goals, and just because someone else might put out 12 books a year, does not mean you are a failure if you only put out 1. It’s easy to get bogged down and deflated if you try to follow someone else’s path that isn’t right for you. Just do what you can, the best that you can, and be happy with it, for writing even 1 novel is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud.

PETE: What’s the next or new direction for your writing?

MJ: I’m currently working on a science fantasy – time travel. It will be a single book, because my life is too full right now to keep up with a new series. I loved doing the Secret Prince trilogy, but it was a lot of pressure to get the next book out in a timely fashion for the readers. And I’m a slow writer to begin with, so that added even more pressure (it was only my own personal pressure, but it was still too much!).

 

STATEMENT TO RESPOND TO:  A lot of the advice to indie authors says that we can’t be successful unless we write and release 3-4 books per year.

MJ: If this weren’t a family blog, I would throw out some choice words for that statement! Haha. Success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes, if you’ve written and published a full-length book, you’re successful, because it is not easy to do! But of course, I know what they’re talking about is financial success. Even with that, I don’t know that I agree. There are many highly successful indie authors who take a year or more to write a book. Look at Darcie Chan for example. Her very 1st book sold over 400,000 copies and was on the WSJ Best Seller’s list for 28 wks. Her next book didn’t come out until 3 years later. E.L. James’ books are also about a year apart. So these two examples alone blow that statement out of the water.  Sure, it’s great if you can pump out a lot of books in a short time. And of course, the more books you have available, the more opportunities you have to sell. But each sale we get and every book we put in the hands of a reader is a success, and we should rejoice in those moments instead of despair that we can’t live up to another broad statement.

PETE: thanks for your time!

***

As a mom of 3 boys, MJ Bell wrote the Chronicles of the Secret Prince trilogy to appeal to boys as much as girls. Readers will recognize several Arthurian characters/places in this trilogy: Mordred, the Lady of the Lake, Avalon, and Excalibur’s twin brother sword, which is given to Deston…and of course there’s Merlyn…

She holds a Mom’s Choice Award (Gold Award Winner for Fantasy). More about her here.

Before the Full Moon Rises (and the rest of the trilogy) is available here.

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Top Ten Aussie Spec Fic Books of My Past Decade

 

Before about 2005, I never read Australian fiction. I also rarely watched an Australian TV show or movie mainly because they were no good, and they still aren’t mostly.

But I had no excuse for avoiding local writers — this was simply ignorance on my part. Australia can be proud of its speculative fiction authors (and publications, such as Aurealis). I am hooked on local produce now; my palate has become edu-ma-cated.

So it was difficult to set myself the task of rating my top ten reads since I became thus edumacated. But I found it fun, and it reminded me again of just how much Aussie-produced wealth is out there in our libraries and bookshops.

In no particular order:

  1. The Business of Death – Trent Jamieson. Well this one is in a particular order, since this short trilogy is one of my favourite reads ever.
  2. The Extraordinaires – Michael Pryor. YA. Lively, funny, immersive and professionally polished.
  3. Worldshaker – Richard Harland. Also YA. Intelligently constructed world building and a gripping (and at times funny) plot.
  4. Epilogue – FableCroft Publishing. With variations on a theme by writers such as Steve Cameron, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely, Thoraiya Dyer, Jason Nahrung, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Elizabeth Tan, Jo Anderton, Lyn Battersby. The theme is an always-interesting one (what happens after the end of the world?) and these takes on it are creative, diverse and brilliantly crafted.
  5. The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Peter Cooper’s fantasy adventure has been slated as a children’s book, and sure this is a book my kids would have loved me reading to them when they were younger… But I’m an adult and I LOVED it. Fun, funny and tense enough to make you finish a chapter no matter how much you wanted to go to bed, Blue Jade Book 1 is a fresh take on the crowded genre of medieval fantasy. Peter Cooper draws on Eastern mythology to create the magic and spiritual foundation for his world. And the trio of child characters who take on the frightening people and creatures of their world are clearly differentiated from each other. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
  6. Ghosts Can Bleed – Tracie McBride. Well okay, Tracie is a Kiwi. But she lives in Australia. And that was good enough for us to claim Split Enz as an Aussie band. Her collection of short stories is 5 stars all the way. Razor sharp storytelling. Seriously: download the sample on your Kindle and you’ll see.
  7. Salvage – Jason Nahrung. Brooding, compelling, pacy. The perfect vampire novel (novella?).
  8. The Vengeance Trilogy – Devin Madson. Probably the best epic fantasy trilogy I’ve read and I’ve read a few. A revolving multiple viewpoint plot where all the POV characters speak in first person. Facinating magic. And political intrigue that works particularly well because the politics are above all on the level of personal gripe and offence and redemption.
  9. Slights – Kaaron Warren. True horror. A main character I did not like for the entire book and who still compelled me to read the next paragraph. Superb.
  10. Confessions of a Pod Person – Chuck McKenzie. Tight, clever and often very funny short stories. Definitely worth a look.

Chuck Regan: Five Questions

 

It has been my pleasure to work with Chuck Regan – Artist on the cover art for Black Marks. If you like that cover, thank Chuck! In the process or working with him, I also discovered he is Chuck Regan – Author. At the time of writing, I am 80% through his book Chimera Shakes and have read the first two chapters of Leviathan. I own both books. Great novels. Great writing. Let’s ask Chuck some questions, shall we?

***

PETE: Why book covers? What drew you into this line of work?

CHUCK: I have 20 years experience designing for advertising agencies, and after a string of layoffs (advertising is very volatile industry), I wanted to try something new where I had more direct influence over the end result of my efforts. Prior to advertising, I had spent an embarrassing amount of time and energy trying to break into the comic book industry as a writer/artist. By 2008, and the economic downturn, I was focusing more on writing stories without pictures, so designing book covers for that stuff I was writing seemed like a natural extension.

Some guys I met through Shotgun Honey teamed up and we started self-publishing anthologies of stories—zombies, sci-fi, noir, westerns—and all those books needed covers, so that’s where I started with Zelmer Pulp.

PETE: What things should an author do to make it easier for an artist to collaborate with them?

CHUCK: One issue I sometimes get are clients who already have a cast-in-iron idea of what they want on their cover—multiple characters and complex scenes. I tell them you gotta think like a billboard—catch the eye in a half-second. Less is more.bookcover-rip1

And a little about pricing here. I’m an indie publisher myself, and my budgets are nonexistent (I’m just lucky I already have an in-house illustrator on call), so I understand the sticker shock when I quote a price. I’ve had to turn down quite a few projects that would have been a lot of fun to work on, but when I quoted $500 for a highly detailed scene which would have required a lot of back-and-forth with the client, designing the character, costume, and background, one client countered my offer with ‘I can only pay you a hundred bucks.’ A lot of times, I’ll take a low bid just to illustrate something cool and add to my portfolio, but a project usually takes 12 to 20 hours or more to complete. I can’t think in terms of hourly rates, but a hundred dollars is ridiculous.

So I guess my answer to this question is: clients on a budget should consider giving the artist some room to have fun and explore options. The more excited and involved the artist is with the project, the more energy goes into their expression, and that, ideally, will translate quickly to the audience scanning a real or virtual bookshelf. You want your designer to love doing what they are doing for you, and if you can’t enthuse them with money, let them do what they do best. They’ll love you for it, and it will come out in their design. Ideally, it will work out that way. There are a lot of crappy designers out there. Ask your friends what their opinion is of the designer’s portfolio first.

PETE: Awesome advice. So, you have your own line of novels. I’m most of the way through Chimera Shakes and loving it. What is the inspiration for the novel?

CHUCK: It’s great to hear you like that story! I had two editors at a Bizarro publisher reject it for being ‘too insane’. Too insane for Bizarro?? Cool. I’ll take that as a compliment. A positive reaction from another author is the best compliment I can hope for, though.

Once the guys started dropping out of Zelmer Pulp, I still had stories I wanted to tell—short stories and longer projects, which usually started as ideas kicked around in our Facebook message thread, or through other publishers’ calls for entries—so I started my own imprint, ‘Rayguns and Mayhem’ to put out my own stuff. It’s purely a vanity press, and I wholly embrace that.

bookcover-chimerashakes
Yeah, so inspiration. I had just finished reading ‘Zombie’ by Joyce Carol Oates, which is a First Person POV unreliable narration about a serial killer who is trying to create zombie sex slaves by lobotomizing them. It’s one of those stories that sticks in your head like a tumor. It needed to be purged.

The first scene I wrote for Chimera Shakes was of the assassin in the rafters of the rock concert, which was inspired by a fun rockabilly song by Deadbolt, called ‘Tijuana Hit Squad’. I ran with that song as a short story prompt, adding in some elements from ‘Zombie’, making the hit man schizophrenic and an unreliable narrator. The novella grew out of that.

PETE: What kind of research did you have to use in order to get inside the main character Jasper’s head (so well)?

CHUCK: Um… yeah. Well, I researched the psyche profile of people with schizophrenia and schizotypal personalities to get the details as accurate as I could. I also read a few memoirs of what it was like to live with the disease. It’s always fascinated me, but to be honest, I would probably chart well within the spectrum of the disorder. It helps to be a little crazy to write crazy.

Seriously though, my wife is a student of psychology, and she’s given me some concerned looks over the years, but particularly after I read this story aloud to her. I grew up in a religious cult, so the paranoia induced by trying to discern what is a message from supernatural forces or just a random events derives from that cult experience. All of this I poured into Jasper Hobbes.

PETE: Well, I’m tellin’ ya, it works. And as someone who works with people with mental illness, I also found it empathetic to someone with such a condition. Last question: How do you manage your time to fit it all in, day job, writing, designing?

CHUCK: For the last couple of years, I’ve been working part time from home doing freelance graphic design and illustration, so I set my own schedule. I made it a ritual to spend a couple of hours in the morning writing each day, when it’s still quiet. My prose-related synapses start to stretch thin after 3 or 4 hours, so then I move on to the illustration and design part of my day. My days vacillate between those efforts, depending on what projects are due.

My wife has been very understanding as I pursued this change of career, but it doesn’t compare to the money I was making working as an art director in advertising. I haven’t been able to bring in quite enough money to sustain us, so I’m back to looking for a real day job again. I’ll still make time for writing and covers, because there’s still a lot of crazy that still needs to come out.

PETE: Thanks again, Chuck!

***

Chuck is what they call a “stand-up guy”. I’ve enjoyed working with him on Black Marks and I’m enjoying reading his work. If you’re a writer looking for an artist, talk to Chuck. If you’re looking for fresh spec fiction, look at Chuck’s.

***

More of the same?

 

5 Questions, 1 Statement: Claire Fitzpatrick

   cowp

Claire Fitzpatrick is a writer, an editor, all-round awesome human being. Recently, she launched Oscillate Wildly Press .

We caught up on good ol’ Facebook recently whereupon I asked Claire some questions and invited her to respond to a statement. This is what happened …

***

Pete: What led you to creating your own publishing press and what are its goals?

Claire: In early 2015 my novel was accepted by a small North American publishing company. Naturally, I was elated. Over time, I worked with two editors, and the novel went through various stages of evolution. However, a few claire months ago, I found out the publishing company had closed, without any warning, or correspondence to me.

Pete: Ugh! I am truly sorry to hear that!

Claire: I was furious. I didn’t want to let all that hard work go to waste. Time passed, and I started looking for potential publishers for ‘The Body Horror Book,’ another project I am working on, and when I couldn’t find one I thought best matched the project, I realised I could just publish it myself. At this time, I started thinking about my novel again, and instead of giving up, I decided to create my own company, and proceed with publishing my book as well as ‘The Body Horror Book.’ Of course, I could have simply self-published it, but I realised there was potential for a new small publisher in Australia, and that I would have the support from the Australian Horror Writer’s Association.

I am a massive fan of The Smiths (I have a framed poster of Morrissey and Marr in my lounge room with Johnny Marr’s guitar pick he personally handed to me!) and I wanted to incorporate something from my obsession into the publishing press. I chose ‘Oscillate Wildly,’ as it is a pun from Morrissey’s enigmatic hero, and also the song was recorded without lyrics as Morrissey believed the song could stand on its own. This idea of a song standing on its own motivated me, and gave me the courage that I didn’t need my former publisher to release a successful book. I hunted around for a few editors-people I 100% trusted-and with that Oscillate Wildly Press was born!

Its goals are simple! I’m planning to focus on anthologies, and release perhaps one or two novels a year. Nothing big, nothing overwhelming. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or my little team. 50% of royalties will go to authors who choose to publish with us, as a book is part of someone’s soul they choose to share, so they should reap the benefits. I’d love to focus on horror and science fiction, but we’re open to anything and everything! (My own novel is a combination of historical fiction and horror).

Pete: That sounds likes a fascinating blend, Claire. So, what excites you most about Australian speculative fiction?

Claire: There is such a massive market for Australian speculative fiction! I’ve been writing non-fiction for Aurealis since late 2015, and I love reading ‘The Year Ahead in Australian Speculative Fiction.’ It reminds me of the amazing talent in Australia, and keeps me in check with what people want to read!

There are many amazing writers in Australia, and I love that speculative fiction means more than just science fiction, fantasy, and horror – it’s everything in-between that writer’s might have felt wouldn’t fit anywhere, and it gives people hope their ideas and stories are wanted. One of my short stories ‘Yellow Death’ was deemed speculative fiction by the editor of Heater magazine, and I felt like I had tapped into something I had been working so hard to get to. Made me feel all warm and gooey on the inside.

I think the Australian Shadows Awards is also fantastic for speculative fiction. Yes, I’m biased, as I’m this year’s Award Director, but it really is an excellent chance to showcase all the amazing, talented stories produced by Australian writers. NZ might have Lee Murray, but Australia has Kaaron Warren! So there!

Pete: What are your own writing goals for the next year or so?

Claire: I need to release my debut novel, ‘Only The Dead.’ I can’t move on from it to something else until I release it. I write short stories in between, but I can’t seem to work on another novel! I’ve written two novels in the past that are god-damned awful, and I’d like to revisit them one day. But maybe I’ll burn them. It’s infuriating haha. But ‘Only The Dead’ will be out very soon. At the moment, I’m working with artist Shane K. Ryan on the cover, so when that’s done I’ll be able to start on the promotional side of things! (Shane also illustrated my eBook ‘Of Man And Woman.’ Check out his work, it’s amazing).

claire2I’ll also be releasing ‘The Body Horror Book’ early next year sometime. Marc McBride-illustrator of Emily Rodda’s ‘Deltora Quest’- has come on board to illustrate a few chapters, however he can’t get stuck into the project until January. But that’s not really a setback, since I want everything to be perfect before it’s published. I’m hoping to enter it in next year’s Shadows Awards for Best Non-Fiction. Fingers crossed it’s worthy!

I also have two short stories in ‘Remixing The Classics,’ an anthology printed by the University of Queensland Writer’s Club. That’ll be out soon, which is exciting. My stories are horror versions of Peter Pan and Hansel and Gretel.

As for other things, who knows? I’m working on a story specifically for an anthology at the moment, so I have to get crackilackin’ and get it done! Life gets in the way. I wish it would move off the sidewalk and let me through!

Pete: Beef, chicken or vegan?

Claire: Vegan. Save a cow, eat a human.

Pete: You get dumped on a desert island and you can only take that one book, that awesome book, the one you could read over and over for years to come. What is it?

‘Black Foxes’ by Sonya Hartnett. It’s been my favourite book since I was a teenager. Sometimes I think all my characters have a bit of Tyrone Sully in them. I would cut off one of my fingers if it meant I could interview Sonya Hartnett. Joking! But maybe not.

Pete: Please respond to this statement: horror is not real literature

Your mum’s not real literature!

Seriously, though, horror is amazing. Horror can be philosophical, artistic, political….it can incorporate so many different elements. The world is a scary place, and horror often reminds us there is light within the dark, if only one knows how to turn on the light (and it’s one of those quirky Goosebumps book lights from the ‘90s!).

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These interviews are purposefully short but occasionally I conduct one with someone I could talk with all day. Claire has interesting ideas, projects and experiences! If you want to connect with her, look her up on FB or at www.clairefitzpatrick.net.

And Claire, I speak for all of us when I say, “Get that novel published, dammit! I wanna read it!” 😉

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See also:

Author Interview: Kevin Ikenberry, author of Sleeper Protocol

 

Sleeper Protocol is a fun and fascinating sci-fi adventure set in future America and future Australia. My review can be found here. I caught up recently with the author, Kevin Ikenberry, and fired some questions at him about writing, about himself and about his debut novel…

Pete: What are the origins of Sleeper Protocol?

Kevin: I first wrote Sleeper Protocol as a short story entitled “Walkabout.” It was about 8,000 words and focused on a particularly dystopian scene where my characters “leave” civilization and enter the frontier that’s become the central United States. When I sat down to outline the book, I crafted an opening where the protagonist wakes up on the shores of Sydney Harbor at a place called Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair. I spent three and a half weeks in Australia when I was seventeen and I tell people all the time that I left a piece of my heart there.

Having this book begin and end in Australia just felt right, so to speak. As for experiences, there are a ton of them in this book that I’ve tried to write in. Living in Colorado and hiking frequently gave rise to a lot of the narrative. Near the end, the action takes place in Tennessee where I call home (even after not living there in almost twenty-five years.). Where the culmination of the journey comes together is at my family’s “ancestral” home. We call it “The Farm”and I remember tearing up the first time I wrote that scene and the following one as well.

The concept of him piecing together his memory from experiences is the critical element to the story – so bringing a lot of my own experiences into his point of view was challenging, but a lot of fun.

Pete: Why are you a writer?

Kevin: I can tell you that I am not one of those folks who say they wanted to be a writer their whole life. I wanted (and still would go tomorrow!) to be an astronaut. My decision to start writing science fiction in 2009 came, in large part, from my extensive background in space science education. Through teaching, I’ve been able to share my love for space with kids of all ages. Writing science fiction seems like a natural progression of that love. The idea that I could write stories and potentially novels seemed very far out there when I started, but now I know that I enjoy telling stories and I can’t see not writing. When I first had a character start talking to me, I had no idea what to do other than start to write. With the help of a great instructor, I found great friends and mentors as I delved into writing. I’m glad that I did.

Pete: What was the greatest hurdle to overcome in completing this project?

Kevin: I finished the original first draft of Sleeper Protocol in mid 2013 and decided to let it sit in the drawer for a few months before I went back to the manuscript. After a rewrite pass in September 2013, I decided to focus on a couple of other projects with the intent that I would return to Sleeper Protocol in March for a final polish and submittal. That’s when life got in the way.

In February 2014, I nearly died from an infection that attacked the skin on my right leg, shut down my kidneys, and put my heart in serious condition. After ten days in the hospital, I went home for a prolonged at-home care period. This should have been a blessing – a writer always wants more time to write and I had all I could handle. The problem was that I couldn’t write. I could barely do anything besides look out the window and try to come to grips with what had happened. After a couple of weeks, I reached out to Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke who survived a massive heart attack three and a half years ago. Neil’s friendship and advice helped me get back to writing. In May of 2014, I started that final polish on Sleeper Protocol for submittal. Without Neil’s counsel and my team of beta readers, I might not have been able to make that happen.

Pete: As a writer, with a full time job and a family, how do you manage to get the work done?

Kevin: In all honesty, there are a lot of late nights. Being a night owl when it comes to writing is a good thing. After our kids go to bed, I have the chance to work on my writing. Some times are better than others, but it’s just a question of dedication. There are so many people who say “I could write a book if I just had time.” My response to them is to get busy writing. The only way I’m able to tell stories is to sit down and get them out of my head. It’s a question of dedication and discipline. If the story matters that much to you, you’ll find a way to get it down on paper or into the computer. That’s what I focus on. If you really want to do something, nothing can stop you.

Pete: What tips from your road to publication can you offer other writers?

Kevin: Sleeper Protocol had a contract offered on it from a different publisher before Red Adept Publishing signed it. I turned down that contract because I’d taken the time to consult with mentors. My biggest tip to anyone who will listen is simply to reach out to someone else if you don’t understand something. I know it’s not easy to do so, but in my experience, I’ve never had someone that I reached out to completely reject me. Writers, as a unit, understand that we are all in this together and everyone I’ve ever approached is willing to share their experiences. In this particular case, I had two NYT bestselling authors review the contract because it didn’t seem right to me, and it wasn’t right. Because I was brave enough to reach out, and they took the time to look over a bad contract, I saved myself a lot of trouble. If you don’t know – ask. Ask me, ask some one in your writing group, post a question on social media – there are a lot of people who’ve learned their lessons who will make sure you don’t have to do the same.

PeteWith which of your characters do you most connect? Least connect?

Kevin: Obviously, Kieran and I are very similar and while you might think that was very easy to write, there were times it was very difficult to put myself out of the equation and tell the story from the perspective of this character who is a lot like me but not me at the same time. Likewise, I can honestly tell you that writing from Berkeley’s perspective was very challenging. Connecting to my characters was really easy, mainly because they’d been talking to me for a couple of months before I started writing the original draft. All of them changed through the course of the drafts. Making connect to the reader is my greatest hope – I think I’ve done that.

Pete: What is your favorite book of 2015 and why?

Kevin: This is such a difficult question because I am very behind on my reading lists. I will say this, the best two I’ve read so far are Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart and The Martian by Andy Weir. Clockwork Lives is a beautiful sequel to the novel (and Rush album) Clockwork Angels. The attention to detail in the book is amazing, especially the print layout and design. It’s a beautiful book.  The Martian is everything a space geek like me loves, and Mark Watney is a great character. Andy Weir’s ability to create a thrilling story around the actual science that will get humans to Mars (and live there) is astounding.

Pete: Favourite paragraph from Sleeper Protocol?

Kevin: From Chapter Six…

I landed in Perth after sunset, following an “in-flight delay for orbital debris mitigation,” whatever that meant. The bright side was that instead of circling out over the ocean or something, we flew three complete orbits around the Earth. Given what I remembered about my childhood and wanting to travel in space, I should have been thrilled. By my standards, or those from my time, I was an astronaut. The reality was that I dozed for most of the trip. The view of Earth from orbit met every expectation, but the tranquility of it lulled me to sleep after just a few minutes. Because of the late arrival, I caught the last maglev train to Esperance and stepped out of the terminus to a pitch- black night and torrential rain. The briny smell of the ocean floated on the strong breeze, and it made me smile. The lights of the modest town lay below me, down a slope of no more than a few hundred feet, and its warmth filled me. There were no buildings taller than a few stories and not much light compared to downtown Sydney, which was at once disconcerting and comforting. Lightning flashed out to sea and lit the rough, curving coastline for a split second. All of it was perfect. I wondered what it meant to feel so at peace in a place that I’d never seen in my life. I could be happy here. I walked in the rain without a jacket, and my coveralls were soaked through in a matter of minutes. Finding food and dry clothing would be high priorities eventually but not yet. The cool rain hammered my skin and washed the last bit of the Integration Center’s smell from my clothes.

Pete:  What’s next for Kevin Ikenberry?

Kevin: I’ve just concluded the first draft of Vendetta Protocol, the sequel to Sleeper Protocol.  While I’m letting it rest, I’m gearing up for the release of my military science fiction novel Runs In The Family from Strigidae Publishing in the spring of 2016.  I have another novel in discussions right now with my publisher.  I’m working on a variety of projects and staying very busy.  Hopefully, I’ll just keep on writing stories.  That’s the plan.

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Learn more about Sleeper Protocol here.

James Jackson: 5 Questions & 1 Statement

 

A talented writer and generous host of the Ward Room website, James Jackson is the energetic force behind a new zombie apocalypse series. He also serves as an outdoor survival instructor, and a Military Technical Advisor for several published authors. I enjoyed the first in his series and I thought I’d introduce him to you all by way of pitching five questions and a statement his way (my words are those in itallics) …

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1.  James, I notice a wealth of military knowledge in your writing. From whence does this wealth flow? I spent almost 20 years in the US Navy. During that time, strangely for a waterborne service, most of it was spent on land, shore duty. It was during that time I interacted with other US military units and several foreign nations’ military units. I’d like to think that experience serves my writing and that knowledge flows from there.

2.  Can you tell us something of your creative process: what happens between the genesis of ideas and completed, polished projects? The ‘genesis of ideas’ is quite a statement. I don’t know how other authors get that ‘spark’ or ‘genesis’ moment, but for me it happens at the most strangest  of times. I’ll be outside doing some project or sleeping and it hits me out of the blue.  I keep notepads with me all the time so I don’t lose the idea. I’ve caught myself watching television and zoning out with some idea that who knows where it came from, but, damn. It’s good. I’m probably sitting on several years’ worth of books, not just the genre that my current project is, of material that fills notepads and notebooks. To get to a completed, polished project? That can take a while with my schedule, but its well worth the wait.

3.  The Up from the Depths series: what’s it about and what’s the inspiration for it? Up From the Depths is about a global apocalypse that contains zombie-like crazy people. Yeah, there’s a lot that going around. Think 28 Days later, George Romero, Tom Clancy, and Michael Crichton then puke that up onto the floor and you’ve got a rough idea of what Up From the Depths is about. What makes it stand out, at least in my mind, is the accurate level of detail when it comes to the actions and reactions of the military characters within the story.  The inspiration for the series came from several sources. The classic Dawn of the Dead by George Romero played a role as did the remake of that same film in 2004. If you’ve seen the remake, there’s a montage shortly after the female lead escapes her house. That montage  plus being exposed to some truly awful books about a zombie apocalypse can be credited as the slap in the face for me to wake up and start writing Up From the Depths.

 

4.  What would you say is a point of difference setting your series apart from other zombie series? That would be the level of detail and accuracy in weapons use and military procedures. That and I really strove to keep all the known clichés and stereotypes out of the series as much as possible. Not saying there aren’t any, but there aren’t as many. Does that make any sense?

It does make sense. I love the fact that this virus is unleashed maliciously. There is a conspiracy theory out there about the rich taking action in reducing the population of the planet’s poor to give them a bigger playground for themselves, so this played nicely on that.

5.   What do you do for fun … apart from editing and re-editing like the rest of us? You mean there’s something more fun than editing and re-editing? For fun, I’m an instructor for outdoor survival and disaster mitigation.

 

Respond to this Statement: “It’s impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age.”

Not sure how to respond to that statement. It would have to depend on what kind of lifestyle you currently have and what you plan to achieve. It’s possible to make a living but not right away. Don’t publish your first novel and quit your job the same day. If you’re dedicated to something and have a realistic goal, there’s no reason why you can’t reach it. Make a plan, work the plan. So, no, it’s not impossible to make a living as a writer in this day and age, you just need to work at it.

Thanks, James!

Readers, go google it!

The book is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/578399 and also at Amazon.

The blurb lies below…

 

Where will you be when the world ends?

What will you do to save the lives of people you love?

Follow the men of ODA-141, the Outlaws and the SEALs of Shark Platoon in this hard-hitting, real-world look at life before, during, and after an apocalyptic event.

In a world ravaged by a mutated virus survival is all that matters.

This epic novel of apocalyptic survival and terror begins as a sociopathic billionaire decides that mankind is the disease, and unleashes a virus to cleanse the earth. What he didn’t plan on was the side effects. The unbelievable scope of this classic tale encompasses monumental sequences of realistic, spine-chilling horror in a world inhabited by infected hordes of crazed flesh devouring zombies.

This is the way the world ended.

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See also:

Guest Post: Kevin Ikenberry — How has science fueled my fiction?

 

When Pete put this question to me, it took a bit of time in hospital for me to fully grasp it.  The question wasn’t the cause of my medical issue, but laying there without much to do besides think and dream gave me the chance to realize that there are three ways that science (hard or speculative) has fueled my fiction.

1.  Endless possibility. 

We live in a time where major scientific advancements that will affect our future generation happen nearly every day.  We may not hear of them for years, but they are out there.  Whether it be a medical advancement in the treatment of a disease or a proposal for a hyper loop transportation system, we may not see the fruits of those labors during our lifetimes, but our children and their children will know them as the norm.  Take a look around you.

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of a computer in your hand was absurd.  Computers during those days still took up portions of large rooms.

Or, consider that humanity went from the first powered flight in 1903 to the moon in 1969 and you’ll see what I mean.  Imagining the progression of our current norms toward the future breeds endless possibility.  We may get a portion of that future right based on what we know of the science now, or we may botch it enough that our future generations will read our work and laugh at our innocence.

I tend to look at our sciences today as a keyhole to the future.  We cannot unlock the door, but our understanding of things now provide us a way to see into the future and what might be.

2.  The occasional moment where your idea becomes reality (in a way).

Several years ago, 2009 in fact, I wrote a story entitled “Digger Girl” that took place on an asteroid converted for interstellar flight.  The idea seemed logical to me.  The heavy shielding necessary would mostly be in place, depending on the thickness of the asteroid in question.  Propulsion would have been an issue, but the orbital mechanics of speeding up an asteroid to fall towards the Sun and receive a gravitational assist from several planets were sound.  Attach a reaction control system to the beast and a theoretical propulsion system that could perpetually thrust the asteroid forward and a mission to proximal could take a couple of hundred years.  The asteroid became a generation ship without the nasty business of lifting all of that mass to orbit.

Imagine my surprise late last year when a scientist postulated the same thing and it reached the press.  For that brief moment in time, I knew what it must have been like for Clarke and others to have predicted something that became reality (in a way).  To me, that’s one of the thrills of writing science fiction.  Your dreams have a chance of being reality.  To me, it doesn’t matter that this scientist proposed the same thing, and for all I know it was postulated a long time before 2009 (remember, all good science fiction stories have been told before).

That brief connection to a possible future made my day, and I hope to have many others before I reach the “clearing at the end of the path.”

3.  Science is how we take destiny by the horns.

I’m inspired every day by some aspect of science, especially when I look at the collective mess we are as a species.  Without waxing political, I worry about the future that my children are growing up into.  We live in a world that still thrives on conflict to no end.  Our world, the very ecosystem, is in chaos.  This may be the cyclical nature of things or it very well could be manmade, but the argument is the same nonetheless.  I am a firm believer in a statement from Tsiolkovsky that “the Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot remain in the cradle forever.”  Time is against us.  The Sun is going to die.  It doesn’t matter that it may be billions of years until then.  We have a lot to do as a species before then, and I believe we will get there, but the goal must be to leave this planet behind.

Science provides the progress to change our basic human needs – longevity, better shelter and clothing, better foods.  I try to look beyond the political machinations and global profiteering of our current society in the hopes that science has the impact it should, to take our destiny by the horns and propel us to the stars.  I will never see it, but I can dream about a time when the world pulls together and all of humanity reaps the benefits versus a tender few.  That motivates me to write.

In all, I tend to tell very human stories that hopefully reflect how science is a benefit to our ever-changing humanity.  Science inspires me because it continues to move forward.  It does not stagnate.  There is always someone, somewhere, thinking and postulating and experimenting.  Let us hope that never changes.  If science stagnates, humanity will stagnate.  Bringing a bit of science to the forefront reminds a reader how much that science has changed their lives.  We take our technology for granted now, when a few decades ago, we had nothing of the sort.  That progress came from science.

Think of where we can be in another hundred years. I know I do.

Kevin Ikenberry